To curb global malnutrition, Arjun and his teammates envisioned an enhanced starter dough that could be shared easily and cheaply among large groups of impoverished people. The bread baked from this dough could avert health problems that occur when vitamins and other nutrients are missing from their diets. Such health problems can be serious. The World Health Organization has described vitamin A deficiency as the leading cause of preventable blindness in children.
Yeast, which helps make bread rise, does not normally produce vitamins. To make this happen, the students, representing a variety of science majors, had to genetically tweak the single-cell microbes. The team members figured out how to add to yeast cells certain DNA sequences that triggered a series of biochemical reactions that produced beta carotene. They presented that development at the iGEM regional contest and are continuing to work on yeast that also produces Vitamin C, another crucial nutrient needed in impoverished areas.
As they worked on the VitaYeast project, the students were advised by Johns Hopkins faculty members, including Jef Boeke, a leading yeast expert who is a professor of molecular biology and genetics at the School of Medicine. "One of the great things about iGEM teams, which are mostly made up of undergraduates, is that those students, frankly, will not believe that something is impossible," Boeke said. "If you tell them that something is impossible, they will go off and do it. I find that to be very exciting."
Working in lab space provided by Boeke and other faculty members, the iGEM students solved the science challenges and produced samples of their enhanced dough. But would VitaYeast yield bread that looks and smells good enough to eat? As all good cooks know, the proof is in the pudding -- or, in this case, the br
|Contact: Phil Sneiderman|
Johns Hopkins University